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Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy (2009)

DVD Released: 4/21/2009

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/21/2009

I first became a fan of X-Men comics in 1982 and was immediately hooked on their adventures and the unique characters. While superhero movies and TV shows weren't as prolific then as they are today, they did exist, and I always dreamed that the X-Men would be featured in some medium where they would be available to the masses. Little could I have dreamed that the X-Men films would be as popular as they are. Nor, would I have believed that there would be three X-Men television shows. The newest one is Wolverine and the X-Men.

The Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy DVD contains three episodes from the series. Here, they are called "Heroes Return" Parts 1-3, but they are also known as "Hindsight"

Part 1 -- A year after an explosion leveled Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, Wolverine (voiced by Steve Blum) helps to rescue a girl from a burning car accident. A bystander calls the MRD (Mutant Response Division) who capture the girl's family. Wolverine returns to the ruins of the Mansion to find that Beast (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) has been working there. They team up to help the family. Wolverine then decides to reunite the X-Men.

Part 2 - The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants -- Quicksilver (voiced by Mark Hildreth) , Blob (voiced by Stephen Stanton), Toad (voiced by A.J. Buckley), Domino (voiced by Gwendoline Yeo), and Avalanche (voiced by James Patrick Stuart) -- wreak havoc, thus reinforcing stereotypes about mutants and fueling Senator Kelly's (voiced by Richard Doyle) anti-mutant sentiment. Rogue (voiced by Kieren van den Blink), confused about her feelings towards the X-Men, decide to help The Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Wolverine is able to recruit Kitty Pryde (voiced by Danielle Judovits), Iceman (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal), and Angel to help him.

Part 3 -- With the help of Angel's money, work begins to re-build Xavier's School. Emma Frost (voiced by Kari Wahlgren) arrives to operate Cerebro in order to locate Xavier (voiced by Jim Ward). They learn that the Professor is on the island of Genosha. A rescue attempt ensues which leads the X-Men directly to Magneto (voiced by Tom Kane).

Before I get into a discussion of Wolverine and the X-Men, allow me to say that I have been out of comics since 1995, so I don't know anything about the Ultimates or any of the other wacky things which Marvel has done since that time. (I didn't watch any of the X-Men: Evolution series, as I couldn't get past Wolverine in that orange costume.) Given that, I can say that the show, not unlike Spectacular Spider-man, is an interesting hybrid of different sources. The story and characters take bits and pieces from the comics, the previous TV shows, and the feature films. For example, the broad range of characters is reminiscent of the comics, but the fact that Rogue is a teenager comes straight from the movies. The storyline featured here contains many facets of the comic books, most notably the way in which Senator Kelly and the MRD want to capture mutants, and the introduction of the island of Genosha. The finale of these three episodes points the way to the classic "Days of Future Past" storyline from The Uncanny X-Men. (From which Heroes liberally pilfered.)

While the bits and pieces of the show are on target, the way in which the story is told is unsatisfying. The X-Men comics were always about drama, but to open the series with the mutant team scattered and disjointed was a mistake. The power of the X-Men lies in the fact that they work as a team despite the fact that their personalities clash. The show was clearly meant to be a tie-in to the upcoming Wolverine feature film, as the show is centered around that character. (Which isn't surprising, as he's been the most popular X-character for nearly 30 years.) However, the dark, brooding Wolverine needs other characters to play off of, and he spends too much time on his own here.

These complaints aside, given Hollywood's tendency to water down or completely change existing material, we're lucky to have a show which is this close to the comics. It's great to see the familiar characters in action and the show isn't afraid to touch on some serious issues. I am confused by the content of this DVD. At this point in time, eight episodes have aired. Why just release these three?

Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy brings the snikt to DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The episodes are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic and there's no overt artifacting. I don't know if Nicktoons Network is available in HD anywhere, but this looks much better than my digital cable broadcast and it's great to see it widescreen. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio is quite muscular and the stereo effects are well done. The surround sound effects are sporadic, but they are effective when they show up. We are also treated to a smattering of subwoofer effects during the action scenes.

The Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY by Supervising Producer Craig Kyle and Head Writer Greg Johnson. This is a pretty good talk as the pair discuss the story and why certain plot/character decisions were made. This is followed by a COMMENTARY by Supervising Director Boyd Kirkland and Director Steven Gordon. I really liked this chat, as Kirkland has the nerve to question why the story is being told in the way that it is. "Nicktoons Network Going In/Scene: Wolverine and the X-Men" (2 minutes) is a quick overview of the show with comments from Kyle, Johnson, and some of the voice actors. "Character Profiles" (3 minutes) are brief interstitials from Nicktoons Network which feature Professor Xavier describing the abilities of 8 characters. "Making of Wolverine and the X-Men" (5 minutes) has Kyle and Johnson describing the story, the art, the characters, and the goals of the show.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long